Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fashion and Tools in Bath

By Claire
We took the bus into Bath again today--our plan was to split up, Chuck to the Museum of Bath at Work while I went to the Museum of Fashion. I'm sure mine was more interesting.

Before parting, we toured the Assembly Rooms, free to anyone. This is where many of Jane Austen's balls would have taken place. Unfortunately, this building was bombed by the Germans in 1942 in retaliation for bombing L├╝beck. The incendiary bomb destroyed the interior but it was rebuilt after the war. The walls of the tea room are pink in places, a result of the fires that raged through the building after the bombing. Ironically, the entire British Admiralty was moved here from London in 1939 to protect it from the anticipated Blitz of London.

Assembly Rooms

We checked out the interior, taking note of the beautiful chandeliers, the only thing that survived the bombing (I have no idea how).

Octagon room

Tea room

This is where the musicians would play during the ball.

I continued into the Fashion Museum which is downstairs in the Assembly Rooms building. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. It began with the "Dress of the Year" exhibit displaying fashions from 1969 to the present. The included audio guide was helpful but I hate them. It either hangs around your neck or you carry it, holding it up to your ear like a telephone to listen. I much prefer ear buds.

I loved the wall of record albums following the same years as the dresses and the comparisons made in the fashions of the times. I swear I saw an outfit I used to have.

Walking into the next room, I found a couple of girls trying on corsets and hoops. One was happily willing to let me take her photo. She told me it wasn't as uncomfortable as she thought it would be but did make her stand up very straight. The hoop was not as stiff as either of us expected.

The special "Princess Diana" exhibit was more interesting than I expected. Each glass case displayed a different outfit or gown from a particular event and described it in detail. There was a video at the end showing her wearing each of the items displayed.

I must admit I enjoyed the photos of models like Jean Shrimpton, Patti Boyd and Twiggy along with all the clothes displayed. Memories! I am still attracted to the style of Mary Quant.

The last room displayed purses, bags and shoes. One bag was decorated with the iridescent wings of beetles found in India. There were a few fashions for men on display and even a few men going through the museum. It was fun. I'm glad I went.

By Chuck

Today, I went to the Museum of Bath at Work. The point here seems to be that although tourism has always been an important part of the Bath economy, it is still a working city that needs to have all the infrastructure and amenities of any other civilized location. In fact, the extent of innovation in Bath would seem to eclipse that of your ordinary fair-sized city by quite a bit.

The entire museum is a virtual reconstruction and restocking of the J.B. Bowler factory, a metalworking and water bottling conglomerate from the 1800's. One room had a button that allowed you to turn on an entire room of metalworking equipment all run from a single engine in the basement by pulleys and belts. Great fun. The other rooms had the sound effects of the operation as background, even though the equipment was still—a very nice effect.

Bath began providing cranes to the world in 1851.

Wheelchairs were invented here; there were about 250 in 1793; they improved upon sedan chairs by requiring only one person to move them; and, they must have been easier to power!

William Harbutt, a struggling artist with a need to improve upon modeling clay, invented Plasticine, here, in 1897. It is still used by the Wallace and Gromit producers to this day. I knew this in my childhood as silly putty.

Nicholaus Otto, in Germany, invented a 4-stroke internal combustion engine in 1878. In Bath in 1883, Sam Griffin invented a 6-stroke double-action, single-piston internal combustion engine that burned fuel at both ends of the stroke. This allowed for a smooth-running engine for generating electricity and for pumping—and it permitted him to avoid patent violation of Otto's invention.

Joseph Day, improved upon the 2-stroke engine, here, in 1892, His basic design is still used in lawnmowers and motorcycles.

Isaac Pittman improved upon shorthand about 1845, trying to provide a time-saving form of writing for everyday use. “Time saved is a life prolonged.” It turned out, however, to be successfully adopted only in the workplace.

John Harrington, Queen Elizabeth I's godson, invented a flushing water closet in 1596. An upper tank flushed into a lower tank through a wooden box. It had to be dumped twice a day, though, as there was no sewage system to carry away the waste. Used properly, “Your worst privy may be as sweet as your best chamber.” Reportedly, QE I, found hers too noisy and did not really take to it.

Gustav Horstmann invented a self-winding clock in 1866; it operated on varying temperatures, but the materials used ate the seals and it was not commercially successful. His son, Sidney, began a car manufacturing company, Horstmann's, in 1914. The cars sold for £145. But the company went bust in 1916.

I had a great time; but, I kept thinking that our friends Roger and Jim would have been able to add a whole bunch of background information as I made my way though the exhibit. Maybe they will enjoy this as much as I did, even though they are not here.

The English contribution to world cuisine - the chip. ~ John Cleese

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